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Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Perfect Parable

Rev. Linda Miller finished her sermon this morning with what I think is a perfect parable for the emergent church. Here it is:
There was once a poor family in a small town. They were plagued with financial woes and bad luck, and even though the mother had taken in laundry and ironing to try to make ends meet, they couldn't keep up. Their home and furniture were worn slick with use. They were good people in a bad way.

The community decided to help. It offered to build the family a new house. It wouldn't be luxurious, but it would be more stable and safe. It would be a clean start. When the community told the mother she said, "Oh, thank you so much for your kindness and your offer, but I could never leave this house, it is my home."

Have we become so comfortable in our beliefs that even though they are worn slick with use, we cannot trade them in for a new home?
I think it is perfect because it is easy to sympathize with the poor mother. Some will read this story and see her as noble, and no one would read the story and see her as evil.

It is a parable addressed to a community that I don't concern myself with as much as others. It is addressed to those who are living in a faith that they've outgrown; those who are making excuses for failing of their faith.

I like it because if you are the poor mother--as I am in many ways, attached to a faith that my family has lived in for generations--it is scary to leave that comfortable home for nothing but a promise. If you view the promise as coming from scholars, disinterested academics, then it would be foolish to leave your comfortable home for that. But, if the community in the parable doesn't represent scholars and theologians, but God, then you would be foolish not to trust the promise. As I say to those who find questions about virgin birth, bodily resurrection and the historical Jesus scary, don't worry, God is big enough to weather your questions.

1 comment:

Lin said...

it is scary to leave that comfortable home for nothing but a promise

That is so true -- for many there is fear that I can't just step outside the house to entertain this one new possibility, because if I do the whole house will fall down. Some forms of faith require that I embrace a whole package or system of belief.

If you view the promise as coming from scholars, disinterested academics, then it would be foolish to leave your comfortable home for that.

It is so important to acknowledge this - I appreciate this about you. I have heard Bible scholarship dismissed by people of faith specifically because it presented truths derived academically -- reason, as a defence for spiritual truth, was suspect. I believe you have hit on an explanation, & have voiced it in other posts. If faith is defined as belief that defies proof or requires the suspension of reason, then walking away from my familiar, comfortable faith in exchange for something with a faulty origin would be heretical - and frightening.

But, if the community in the parable doesn't represent scholars and theologians, but God, then you would be foolish not to trust the promise.

Ahhh, yes. This kind of logic works for me. Depending upon a person's ability to navigate the first two possibilities with enough openness to imagine that it is God beckoning them to another way, your conclusion should have meaning for a broad audience.

God is big enough to weather your questions.

How liberating that is! Your commentary is rich & gracious. Sometimes the epilogue is better than the sermon. Thanks.